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Dhaka protests over Myanmar’s suspected landmine use near border

  • Published at 06:56 pm September 6th, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:50 am September 7th, 2017
Dhaka protests over Myanmar’s suspected landmine use near border
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh lodged a protest with Myanmar on Wednesday amid claims that landmines have been deliberately laid near their shared border to trap fleeing Rohingya, reports Reuters. The move came after reports and pictures emerged in the media this week of two Rohingya children and a woman who had their legs blown off by apparent landmine blasts as they tried to escape the latest violence in Rakhine state. A Myanmar army crackdown triggered by an August 25 attack by Rohingya insurgents on security posts has led to the killing of at least 400 people and the exodus of nearly 125,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh. When asked whether Bangladesh had lodged the complaint, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said "yes" without elaborating. Three other government sources confirmed that a protest note was faxed to Myanmar in the morning, saying the Buddhist-majority country was violating international norms.
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"Bangladesh has expressed great concern to Myanmar about the explosions very close to the border," a source with direct knowledge of the matter said, on condition of anonymity. A Myanmar military source said landmines were laid along the border in the 1990s to prevent trespassing and the military had since tried to remove them. But none had been planted recently. Two Bangladeshi sources said they believed Myanmar security forces were putting the landmines in their territory along the barbed-wire fence between a series of border pillars. Both sources said Bangladesh learned about the landmines mainly through photographic evidence and informers. "Our forces have also seen three to four groups working near the barbed wire fence, putting something into the ground," one of the sources said. "We then confirmed with our informers that they were laying landmines." The sources did not clarify if the groups were in uniform, but added that they were sure they were not Rohingya insurgents. Manzurul Hassan Khan, a Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) officer, said earlier that two blasts were heard on Tuesday on the Myanmar side, after two on Monday fuelled speculation that Myanmar forces had laid mines. “One boy had his left leg blown off on Tuesday near a border crossing before being brought to Bangladesh for treatment, while another boy suffered minor injuries,” Khan said, adding that the blast could have been a mine explosion.
Also Read- 2 Rohingya children injured in landmine blast near Naikhongchhari border
A Rohingya refugee who went to the site of the blast on Monday - on a footpath near where civilians fleeing violence are huddled in a no man's land on the border - filmed what appeared to be a landmine: a metal disc about 10cm in diameter partially buried in the mud. He said he believed there were two more such devices buried in the ground. Two refugees also said they saw members of the Myanmar army around the site in the immediate period preceding the Monday blasts, which occurred around 2:25pm local time. It was not possible to independently verify that the planted devices were landmines and that there was any link to the Myanmar army. The Myanmar army has not commented on the blasts near the border. Zaw Htay, the spokesman for Myanmar's national leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was not immediately available for comment. On Monday, he said clarification was needed to determine "where did it explode, who can go there and who laid those landmines. Who can surely say those landmines were not laid by the terrorists?" Bangladesh Home Secretary Mostafa Kamal Uddin did not respond to calls seeking comment. The border pillars mentioned by the Dhaka-based sources mark the boundaries of the two countries, along which Myanmar has a portion of barbed wire fencing. Most of the two countries' 217-km-long border is porous. "They are not doing anything on Bangladeshi soil," said one of the sources. "But we have not seen such laying of landmines in the border before." Myanmar, which was under military rule until recently and is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, is one of the few countries that have not signed the 1997 UN Mine Ban Treaty.